A good youth sports coach knows how, what and what to teach, emphasizes the positive, makes practices fun and teaches that sports are as much about fun, skill development and goal-setting as they are about winning.
Success in sports isn't just about winning
A good coach keeps winning in perspective and places the emphasis on self-improvement, mastering skills, creating community, and achieving personal and team goals. Instead of viewing competition exclusively as a matter of winning and losing, he understands that opponents are co-creators of a sporting experience and that competition is a process of striving with, not against, others to do everyone's best. He doesn't exploit loopholes just to win, like telling his players not to swing the bat in order to draw walks from a wild pitcher. He doesn't forfeit a game just because he doesn't like the way the umpire calls balls and strikes.
Creates a positive experience
A good coach provides a framework, through practices and competition, for a positive sports experience: a fun atmosphere in which athletic skills, meaningful relationships and social skills (conflict resolution/communication/putting team goals above personal goals) are developed. Athletes should be laughing, even at age eighteen.
He uses a games-based (i.e. "organized sandlot") approach to practices which de-emphasize structured drills. Because kids get bored easily, he keeps all players involved and busy whenever possible, setting up several stations where players can all do drills or games at the same time while always moving.
Provides positive reinforcement
Coaches who constantly point out and correct a player's mistakes end up intimidating players and makes them afraid to take chances or be creative. Making a child cry is not the most effective form of motivation.
A good coach understands that constructive criticism should be given between positive statements (sometimes called a "praise sandwich"), with specific praise offered for effort and demonstrated improvement (general praise is meaningless, even annoying to players).
Anecdotal evidence collected from coaches by the Positive Coaching Alliance demonstrates that team performance improves when coaches drop negative coaching techniques such as intimidation and humiliation and replace them with more positive methods.
Let them play
The best youth sports coaches are barely seen, seldom heard and don't unnecessarily intrude on the learning process during practices and games. They don't script every moment of practice or micromanage. They aren't running around during practice constantly blowing a whistle or correcting players in a loud voice (When I coached boys' soccer I only used a whistle as a last resort or in an emergency). A good coach understands when teaching moments occur, and when to leave players alone.
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